The Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Started in 1968, the program is “the oldest continuous program of its kind in the country,” according to the program’s website. The MKTYP is one of the ways in which students can be admitted to the Brandeis undergraduate program.
The program is geared toward students who have faced significant challenges in their lives and therefore may have had limited academic opportunities. Students can apply to the program through Brandeis’ undergraduate application. During their first year of the program, students who have been accepted take a mixture of Brandeis undergraduate courses and courses that have been designed specifically for the MKTYP, as students admitted into the program have typically not had access to AP or honors courses.
Each year, the MKTYP admits 20 students out of about 200 applicants. This creates a small learning community within the program, which allows for individualized attention. “Throughout our history, our main focus is academic scholarship and the small size and ability to provide individualized attention has been our hallmark…as a small learning community, we work one-on-one with our scholars to focus on honing her/his/their academic interests and study skills,” said Dr. Kathryn Bethea-Rivera, director of the MKTYP, in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.
Bethea-Rivera, who is in her third year as director of the program, is incredibly excited about celebrating its 50th anniversary. The theme is “A Storied Celebration: 50 Years of the MKTYP Making a Difference,” in order to “showcase the MKTYP’s impact through the success stories of current scholars, alumni, and Brandeis graduates,” Bethea-Rivera said. “We are a program of people with amazing stories of great resilience, talent, and service that enriches the university, nation, and world!”
The program plans to hold teach-ins, so the campus can “better understand MKTYP’s legacy, its future, and how we are an integral part of the university’s enduring commitment to social justice,” Bethea-Rivera said. Celebrations and events will take place throughout the academic year, with culminating events, like a gala and alumni reunion, in the spring.
Additionally, MKTYP plans to create a book of stories by MKTYP scholars and alumni, according to Bethea-Rivera. “We’ve found that our graduates create a rippling effect to inspire others to strive for knowledge, justice, and excellence. We are excited about the prospect of putting a book together to encapsulate the spirit of the people that makes this such a worthwhile program.”
The beneficial results of the program are seen by students within the program as well as alumni. Gisel Urena ’22 is currently in her first year (the transitional year) of the program and has nothing but good things to say about it. “The MKTYP has affected me tremendously in every way possible with just one month in the program,” she said. “I am honored to say, I have achieved many accomplishments already; winning the election to represent the MKTYP Senator, becoming an Impactor for the ’DEIS Impact—a festival for social justice movement, instructing a boxing practice, become a member of the Dining and SOJO committees, and more.”
Although the first year of the program is the only one in which students take different classes, the MKTYP continues to serve students throughout their time at Brandeis with programs like mentoring and advising, according to Urena.
“The best part of this program is its overall purpose, giving students like me—first generation, low-income students—the opportunity to fulfill an education accomplishing their dream career and goals.”
Additionally, the MKTYP offers annual programming and events to their community throughout their time at Brandeis, such as the Annual Retreat, Night of Poetry: Sharing at the Intersections, movie nights, wellness breaks, Night of Inspiration (for Brandeis graduates), study sessions and more. “We sponsor many events because we have fun together, we are proud of our community, and our celebrations add to the greater campus community,” Bethea-Rivera said.
Looking to the future, Bethea-Rivera hopes to continue fulfilling the commitment of the program to knowledge, justice and excellence. She also wants to expand the program into the Waltham and Boston community, seeking to collaborate with clubs on campus as well as community organizations. “We seek to grow by collaborating with many on-campus departments/offices and student clubs/organizations such as the Library, Intercultural Center, Hiatt Career Center, the MLK Fellowship, African and African American Studies, Caribbean Culture Club, etc.,” she said. “In addition, we do plan to partner with local community-based organizations and schools so that we can further embody our mission and provide access and resources to students in the Waltham and Boston areas.”